Communication is an important yet often overlooked part of your employee volunteer program. Both internally, for getting employees engaged and excited about the program, and externally, to let the world know that your company and your employees care about their communities.
And even when we do dedicate time and resources to communicate about it, too often we focus our communications around the “What” of our programs – telling our employees only what they can do or telling our external stakeholders specifics like number of hours volunteered or number of dollars donated.
Don’t get me wrong, these things are important. But they’re not particularly inspirational, and they don’t tie people to your program emotionally. So how DO you evoke this emotion for people when it comes to your employee volunteer program?
In Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” his message is clear and simple – “It’s not what you do, but why you do it” that gets others engaged and inspired to take action. He goes on to talk through how great brands like Apple have created movements and found success by first communicating the “Why” of their brands and beliefs before diving into the “How” and “What.” And also how others have failed from doing the opposite. This talk got me thinking – does this way of thinking and communicating relate to employee volunteering? How?
In short, the answer is yes! Focusing on the “why” can be beneficial for any part of your employee volunteer program messaging strategy, both internally and externally. By starting your message with a hook that evokes emotion and communicates value, the audience will be invested in what you’re saying right from the start.
Here are some ways that you can incorporate the “Why” of your employee volunteering program both internally and externally:
Give your employees the opportunity to experience the “Why” first hand.
Chris Jarvis of Realized Worth recently joined VolunteerMatch for a special Best Practice Network webinar on this very topic. The idea of Transformative Value hinges specifically on giving your employees the opportunity to internalize the values and beliefs of your company through experiencing them first hand – by volunteering! Make sure that your employees always have access to these opportunities to get involved (perhaps using tools like VolunteerMatch Solutions), because once they experience the “Why” themselves, they become your program’s biggest ambassadors to get others involved.
Get employees’ attention from the start with “Why”-focused project titles.
Instead of titling a volunteer opportunity for your employees “Clean up a playground this weekend,” make the title something that is inspiring and explains why cleaning up a playground is important. Who will it help? Why does it matter? Try something like “Give local youth a safe and clean place to play.”
Brand your employee volunteering program with a “WHY?”
What is the purpose of your program? What are the causes that your company cares about? For example, if the answer is to build community – try using that word in the program name and invoke the purpose or your employee volunteer program at first glance.
Apply it to your external communications strategy, as well.
Take Sinek’s Golden Circle approach. Instead of just telling your external stakeholders what your employees did (i.e. they volunteered a certain number of hours,) tell them, “We believe our employees are committed to making a difference in their communities. Because of this we offer them the opportunity to get involved and make an impact through our employees volunteer program. They volunteered ‘X’ hours and created ‘Y’ impact.”
These are just a few simple ideas, but what should you do next? Take a minute after reading this article to watch Sinek’s TEDTalk, and then take a look at your current communications strategies. What are your key messages? Write them down and ask where they fit into the Golden Circle. Is each one a “What”, “How”, or “Why” message, and how do they all fit together?
Keep the Golden Circle in mind while crafting your new messages and your audience will understand what you already know: your program is inspiring!